The NYFA Collection
The NYFA Collection
New York, NY
It's here. It's huge. Own your own cultural time capsule.
Musicologists of the distant future won't be the only ones astonished to discover innova's 5CD set, The NYFA Collection. It brings together in one fat jewel box a trove of musical gems that document a golden age of a classic culture; a quarter of a century’s musical output, all grown in the fertile creative soils of New York, and judged by its artistic peers to be the best of its day. In a field glutted with all kinds of musical chatter, this six-hour, NEA-funded set sorts and distils, juggles and organizes, sifts and curates, some of the most notable artists worthy of your attention.
It's beyond cream: it's a feast, an education, an extravaganza, and a Rosetta Stone all in one. Some of the composers are household names, and some still (for now) known to only a few households. All, however, have received gold stars for their work and deserve a close listen. The gold stars in question being NYFA Fellowships. In 1983, the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) established fellowships in 16 arts disciplines so that regional artists could receive unrestricted support to pursue their work. The New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) administers the fellowships in Music Composition and Sound. To celebrate 25 years of fellows (of which there have been over 200 to date), this Collection features 52 of them.
The dozens of works, most heard here for the first time, are not necessarily the pieces that were submitted to the fellowship panel; rather they are new works by composers who have been prize recipients at one time since 1983. The pieces have been selected by Cristian Amigo (composer, guitarist, and NYFA Advisory Committee member) and Philip Blackburn (innova director), and together show the vast range of musical expression that the program supports; music diverse enough to challenge and reward anyone with an appetite for new sonic adventures.
The pieces range from experimental jam bands, to works for newly invented instruments (a tap-dance instrument, a faucet, music boxes, a bridge railing...), electronic manipulations (using the latest analog and software-based tech wizardry), ethnically specific jazz and world music forms (African banjo, Indian sax, Chinese jazz band...), music for concert hall (for choir, orchestra, brass ensemble, string quartet, piano, flute ensemble…), music for dance and film... Some is crunchy, some is serene, some is tuneful, some noiseful; some go for the gut, some for the cranium; some Uptown, some Downtown, some Out of Town, others sideways. All the works are carefully conceived and crafted, and played by top-shelf performers from around the globe.
The field of New Music easily disappears under the radar of the mass media; the forward-hearing work of thousands of contemporary artists is routinely ignored by the commercial music (not to mention the classical music) industry. Where does one go to discover this exciting human endeavor for the first time, to learn about its heroes and their many divergent paths to artistic expression? You can start right here.
October Editor's Pick — "In 1983, the New York State Council on the Arts established fellowships in 16 arts disciplines, including ones for Music Composition and Sound administered by the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA). To celebrate 25 years of fellows (there have been more than 200 to date), this five-CD collection features 52 of them, mostly performing new compositions heard here for the first time. The pieces show the diverse range of contemporary musical expressions the program supports—experimental jam bands, works for newly invented instruments, electronic manipulations, jazz and world forms, music for dance and film—enough to challenge and reward anyone with an appetite for well-crafted sonic adventures. Notable names like Meredith Monk, Robert Dick, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Fred Ho and Paul Motian stand out among the many forward-thinking, New York-based composers and performers featured in this stunning document of a historic culture."
- Ed Enright, DownBeat
This five-CD set by the New York Foundation for the Arts provides an expansive, refreshingly open-minded overview of the new music scene in New York over the past two-and-half decades. The 61 tracks cover a whole lot of territory and summarizing the set's contents frustratingly leaves out a whole lot. But here's a taste: composer/deep listening guru Pauline Oliveros' "Sound Patterns and Tropes" for voices and percussion combines notation, improvisation and some snippets of Americana; Electronic Music Foundation founder/composer Joel Chadabe goes all-electronic, using two Theremins and some algorithmic software controllers to "conduct" on "Solo"; Andy Teirstein's "Rhapsody" revisits Renaissance melodicism and sonorities with boy sopranos and undulating string lines; saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa's Asian-flavoured "Are There Clouds in India?" jazz swings thoughtfully; sax/drum duo Iconoclast's "No Wave Bitte" moves with lively mechanicality; and Jose Halac's close-mic deconstruction of bass clarinet sounds is an intriguing extension of Horacio Vaggione's "Kitab," with its clouds of clicks, tongue slaps and pad noise tap dancing. 25 Years is a fascinating, thought-provoking, educational, wonderful resource.
- Glen Hall, Exclaim!
Urban mechanism invoked by Annie Gosfield using sampled piano sounds; an ensemble scoring by Daniel Goode of the song of the hermit thrush; smooth, sinuous jazz with Indian undertones by Rudresh Mahanthappa; Andy Terstein's spatially choreographed rhapsody for boy sopranos and strings; the percussive and orchestral sweep of Joan Tower's Tambor. It's unlikely that anyone will enjoy every track on this expansive anthology; certainly listeners will experience peaks and troughs according to taste and priorities.
The compilers, composers Cristian Amigo and Philip Blackburn, have thoughtfully programmed the five CDs to make listening flow and to convey a sense of coherence, but the range of the material is still extremely wide. That's positive because this set is, in effect, a monument to a Fellowship program supporting New Music, set up in 1983 by the New York Foundation for the Arts. More than 50 recipients are represented here. The plurality of voices is unquestionably healthy; there's no prevailing orthodoxy nor air of a narrow clique.
There are off-the-wall gems to be found here: Lois Verk & Anita Feldman's Hexa for three tap dancers on Tap Dance Instrument; Joel Chadabe's 1978 solo for two theremins; Stefan Tcherepnin's feisty noise work Ouvretorture; the oddly swampy free playing of bassist John Lindberg's outfit BLOB; Eric John Eigner's astonishing music wrung from a temperamental bathroom faucet. Women composers are notably well represented; established figures like Meredith Monk, Pauline Oliveros and Annea Lockwood, and less familiar names such as Mary Jane Leach, Eve Beglarain, Lisa Belawa and shakuhachi player Elizabeth Brown. There's punchy No Wave minimalism from the duo Iconoclast; Sidiki Conde's griot music from Guinea; a sentimental nocturne by Ray Leslee; Bora Yoon's idiosyncratic work with Tibetan singing bowls and electronics; meditative choral work by Aaron Jay Kernis; group improvisation by harpist Anne LeBaron and trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith with Peter van Bergen on woodwinds. The list could go on. It's a release designed with no one in particular in mind, but with an achieved body of work to commemorate.
- Julian Cowley, The Wire
The new NYFA Collection, just out on Innova, aims to be the Rosetta Stone of cutting-edge new music in New York, a goal that may be as impossible to achieve as it is admirable to shoot for. But by any standard, this massive five-cd set is extraordinary, a genuine classic. It’s the new music equivalent of the Harry Smith albums. MORE
- Lucid Culture